HR and IT: Should they co-operate, or collaborate?

by 12 Jan 2012

The Optus Future of Work Report, which surveyed more than 320 Australian HR and IT decision-makers across the corporate and government sectors, highlights that the future workplace will be more flexible, collaborative and mobile in the next three to five years. As technology permeates the workplace, HR and IT need to become allies if organisations are to successfully navigate the changing way we work.

According to the report, the future work environment is one where organisations will provide more mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets to sales and field teams. Employees will take advantage of a greater range of mobile applications to be productive even when they are out of the office. Staff can access the corporate network using their personal devices, and the use of real-time internal collaboration tools to share information will be the norm, not the exception. And when it comes to attracting and retaining staff, flexible work practices and the freedom to use personal technology at work will be top of mind.

The question is whether HR and IT will collaborate or co-operate to make this a reality. There is a subtle difference: collaboration is more than co-operation - it involves exchanging ideas and values as well as information and it requires that both parties appreciate each other as more than just a necessary cog in the machine. Co-operation makes sense, but collaboration makes success.

The proliferation of technology in the workplace and the rise of the 'prosumer' are providing a clear business case for HR and IT teams to collaborate, instead of merely cooperating with one another. On the surface, the two fields are as far apart as can be - one deals with employees and talent, the other with technology and data. But the common ground between HR and IT professionals is greater than we may think. HR and IT professionals must manage resources that can't always be easily quantified, making decisions which are based on long-term strategy rather than what's immediately expedient. They have to develop protocols and policies for the sanctity of their resources, but must also acknowledge the need for freedom and innovation in the workplace.

Meanwhile, there will be an increasing crossover in the issues facing HR and IT, whether that be in flexible working arrangements, social media access in the workplace or the blurring work-life threshold. As business continues to evolve, HR and IT professionals are going to have to work as one, combining their areas of expertise to drive the best outcomes for the entire organisation. HR and IT professionals will have to appreciate and understand what their counterparts can do, and how that can be critical to their own responsibilities. They may seem like strange bedfellows, but HR and IT need to collaborate if they're to be prepared for the future.

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